MWD to Vote on Support for State Legislation to Raise Shasta Dam

 McCloud River arm of Lake Shasta. Photo by Dan Bacher. By Dan Bacher The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California w...

 McCloud River arm of Lake Shasta. Photo by Dan Bacher.

By Dan Bacher

The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) of Southern California will vote December 11 on a proposal including the raising of Shasta Dam as a "state legislative action priority."

The MWD staff recommends support for "administrative/legislative actions to remove existing prohibition for state funding to raise Shasta Dam."

I am not aware of any state legislation that has been already introduced to facilitate the raising of Shasta Dam.

See page 3 of the MWD document here.

The raising of Shasta Dam is opposed by the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, fishing organizations, conservation groups and environmental justice advocates for a multitude of reasons. It would flood many of the Tribe's remaining sacred ceremonial sites that weren't already flooded by Shasta Dam.

The dam expansion project, in tandem with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build to build the peripheral tunnels, would also hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

Other "State Legislative Priorities" listed in the MWD document include:

• "Support administrative/legislative action and funding to keep the Bay-Delta Conservation Plan on schedule to advance conveyance and ecosystem improvements to meet the coequal goals of water supply reliability and Delta ecosystem restoration.

• Continue support for implementation of 2009 Delta/water management legislative package.

• Support funding for public share of Delta restoration costs in 2014 water bond. Further modifications to 2014 water bond subject to subsequent board approval."

The state and federal governments and the water contractors claim that the dam raise will help provide colder water for winter run Chinook salmon. "The additional storage capacity would be used to improve the reservoir’s ability to provide colder water for winter-run Chinook salmon during drought years," according to Pamela Martineau of ACWA (the Association of California Water Agencies).

Caleen Audrey Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, challenged Bureau of Reclamation and water contractor claims that dam expansion would improve Lake Shasta's ability to provide colder water for the winter-run Chinook, a fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.

She emphasized that the study didn't include any exploration of the possibility of building a water way or "fish swim" around the dam to allow winter Chinook to spawn in the McCloud River above Shasta Dam, as the Tribe and its allies have proposed.

"A bigger cold water pool is not what’s best for salmon," she pointed out. "It seems as that is one of the first goals in the EIS. But, where is the study that shows how just building a water way or fish swim around the dam would benefit and increase the numbers of salmon? A fish swim would be cheaper and produce more salmon spawning grounds in already naturally cold water."

"It would save millions of dollars in the cost of the cold water pool currently. NOAA has already found that salmon need to go up above Shasta Dam to the McCloud because of climate change. The dam raise would flood more than 7 miles of cold water spawning grounds on the McCloud River, Squaw Creek, and the Sacramento River," said Sisk.

Sisk also discovered that the real Shasta Dam raise will be at 20 feet, instead of 18.5 feet, because the federal government will have to create a buffer zone for the height that they are not talking about yet.

"It might even be more," she stated. "All trees will be cleared again, which will be harmful to our plan to bring back salmon to the McCloud River by a tributary allowing them to swim from the Sacramento River, which will mean the salmon will swim through the Shasta Lake. They will need shade and food for their swim, not a barren "bath tub ring."

"An 18.5 foot dam raise would damage or flood about 40 of our sacred sites, and permanently submerge our Coming of Age ceremony site," Sisk stated. "Help our efforts to protecting sacred sites, clean rivers and healthy salmon runs! Tell them you support the protection of Winnemem sacred sites and our freedom of religion!"

Contact: MWD Executive Officer Jeff Kightlinger - (213) 217-6139 and OfficeoftheGeneralManager2 [at]

You can see Will Doolittle's "Dancing Salmon Home," a documentary about the Winnemem Wintu's journey to New Zealand to bring the winter-run Chinook salmon back to the McCloud River above Lake Shasta, at the Wild and Scenic Rivers Festival in Nevada City in January 2013. Two screening dates are set - Friday, January 11, 7:00 session, and Saturday, January 12, 1:00 pm session. Tickets are available for purchase here.

"Dancing Salmon Home" is a journey of loss and reunification, across generations and oceans, as the Winnemem Wintu tribe of Northern California journeys to New Zealand to meet their long-lost Chinook salmon relatives, which have been missing from their river for 65 years. Along the way, the 28 tribal members hold four days of ceremony beside New Zealand's Rakaia River, forging enduring bonds with the Maori people of the region, and sharing a message of respect for the natural world, and launching plans to bring their salmon home.

For more information, go here.

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